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Wednesday, January 21, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2009 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon was a telegram from Benedict XVI to Barack Obama, congratulating him on his inauguration as forty-fourth president of the United States of America.

  In the English-language telegram the Holy Father offers his "cordial good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you unfailing wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high responsibilities.

  "Under your leadership", he adds, "may the American people continue to find in their impressive religious and political heritage the spiritual values and ethical principles needed to co-operate in the building of a truly just and free society, marked by respect for the dignity, equality and rights of each of its members, especially the poor, the outcast and those who have no voice.

  "At a time when so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world yearn for liberation from the scourge of poverty, hunger and violence, I pray that you will be confirmed in your resolve to promote understanding, co-operation and peace among the nations, so that all may share in the banquet of life which God wills to set for the whole human family.

  The Pope concludes: "Upon you and your family, and upon all the American people, I willingly invoke the Lord's blessings of joy and peace".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2009 (VIS) - In today's general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope recalled how the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began last Sunday, inspired this year by the words of the Prophet Ezekiel: "That they may become one in your hand".

  "Full unity, for which the Lord prayed and for which all His disciples must tirelessly strive, is linked to the very life and mission of the Church in the world", he said. "For this reason it is important that all Christian communities become aware of the urgent need to work with every possible means to achieve this great objective".

  "Aware that unity is above all a 'gift' of the Lord", Benedict XVI continued, "it must be implored with tireless and faithful prayer, escaping our own concerns and addressing ourselves to Jesus. This is the invitation the 'Week' makes to believers in Christ from all Churches and ecclesial communities. Let us respond generously".

  From the words of the Prophet Ezekiel it is clear that "the Lord wishes all His people to proceed patiently and perseveringly towards the goal of full unity. Such a commitment requires humble and docile adherence to the command of the Lord, Who blesses it and makes it fruitful".

  "Ezekiel's vision has particular significance for the entire ecumenical movement, because it highlights the vital need for authentic interior renewal in all members of the People of God, a renewal which only God can bring about. ... The week of prayer for unity thus becomes, for all of us, a stimulus to a sincere exchange of ideas, to an ever more humble acceptance of the Word of God, and to an ever deeper faith.

  "The Week", he added, "is also a good occasion to thank the Lord" for "the meetings, dialogue and fraternal gestures He has allowed us to accomplish". In this context the Pope recalled his three meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and the patriarch's participation in the Synod on the Word of God held in the Vatican in October 2008. He also spoke of his "sharing the pain of the Patriarchate of Moscow for the passing of our beloved brother in Christ, His Holiness the Patriarch Alexis II. I remain in communion of prayer with these our brethren as they prepare to elect a new patriarch of their great and venerable Orthodox Church".

  He went on: "I have also had the chance to meet representatives of the various Christian communities of the West, with whom I continue to consider the important witness Christians are called to give today, ... in a world ever more divided and facing so many cultural, social, economic and ethical challenges".

  In this Pauline Year, said Benedict XVI, "let us make St. Paul's longing our own", for the saint "spent his life entirely for the one Lord and for the unity of His mystical Body, and with his martyrdom rendered a supreme witness of faithfulness and of love for Christ".

  "The desire dwelling in our hearts is that the day of full communion may come quickly, when all the disciples of our one Lord may finally celebrate the Eucharist together, the divine sacrifice for the life and salvation of the world".

  Following the audience, as is the tradition on today's feast of St. Agnes, the Pope blessed two lambs, the wool of which will be used to make the palliums bestowed on new metropolitan archbishops on June 29, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

  Subsequently, in a brief ceremony, the Holy Father received the tile of honorary citizen of the Austrian town of Mariazell, home of a famous shrine which he visited in September 2007.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At the end of today's general audience, the Pope addressed some remarks to Spanish speaking pilgrims inviting them, with reference to the recently-concluded Sixth World Meeting of Families, to "give thanks to God for that important event, and accompany with your prayers the preparations for the next meeting, to be held in Milan, Italy.

  "May the Lord support all families with His grace", he added in conclusion, "that they may be filled with living faith, reciprocal respect, sincere love and mutual understanding. I entrust this intention to the protection of the Sacred Family of Nazareth".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 JAN 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father has sent a telegram to His Beatitude Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt, for the death of Cardinal Stephanos II Ghattas, C.M., patriarch emeritus. The cardinal died in Cairo, Egypt, yesterday at the age of 89.

  In his telegram Benedict XVI mentions his "union in prayer with that patriarchal Church, with the family of the deceased and with all those who mourn", and he asks "the risen Christ to welcome into His joy and peace this faithful servant of the Church who, first as a missionary of the Congregation of the Mission, then as bishop of Luxor, and finally as patriarch, committed himself with zeal and simplicity to the service of the People of God, in a spirit of dialogue and coexistence with everyone".

  The Pope also confers his apostolic blessing upon "bishops, priests and faithful of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, upon the Lazarist confreres of the late cardinal, upon his family and upon all those who, with hope, participate in his funeral".
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